Piedad Córdoba

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Piedad Córdoba
Piedadcordoba.JPG
Córdoba as Senator in 2007.
Senator of Colombia
In office
20 July 2006 (2006-07-20) – 27 September 2010 (2010-09-27)
In office
20 July 1994 (1994-07-20) – 8 July 2005 (2005-07-08)
Member of the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia
In office
20 July 1992 (1992-07-20) – 20 July 1994 (1994-07-20)
Constituency Antioquia Department
Personal details
Born Piedad Esneda Córdoba Ruiz
(1955-01-25) 25 January 1955 (age 59)
Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
Nationality Colombian
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Luis Ángel Castro Hinestroza (1973–1999)
Children
  • Juan Luis Castro Córdoba
  • Camilo Andrés Castro Córdoba
  • Natalia María Castro Córdoba
  • César Augusto Castro Córdoba
Residence Bogotá, D.C., Colombia
Alma mater Pontifical Bolivarian University
Profession Lawyer
Website www.piedadcordoba.net
This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Córdoba and the second or maternal family name is Ruiz.

Piedad Esneda Córdoba Ruiz (born 25 January 1955) is a Colombian lawyer and politician who served as Senator of Colombia from 1994 to 2010. A Liberal party politician, she also served as Member of the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia for Antioquia from 1992 to 1994.

An outspoken critic of the former administration of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, she was involved in two separate investigations, and was stripped from her seat in Congress in 2005 and again in 2010.

During 2007, Córdoba participated as an official government mediator for the humanitarian exchange discussions between the Government of Colombia and the FARC guerrilla group, along with now deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. After the end of the mediation in November, the FARC announced the release of hostages Clara Rojas and Consuelo González. She was nominated for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for her work in promoting peace and human rights in conflict zones but her nomination caused controversy and uproar in her native Colombia.[1]

Córdoba was judicially denounced for treason under Colombian law after making controversial declarations against the Colombian government and its president during a political event in Mexico in March 2007, a charge investigated by the Supreme Court. As part of the "farcpolitics" scandal, Colombian authorities have probed her due to accusations linking the Senator with the FARC.

In 2010, Córdoba spoke before the European Parliament, asking it to pressure the Colombian government under President Juan Manuel Santos into entering into peace talks with the nation's insurgent groups. However, Córdoba later apologized to Santos for her remarks and stated that she didn't want to put the president against a wall, but serve as an "ally for peace." [2]

In 2012, Córdoba was named by Foreign Policy magazine as the most influential Ibero-American intellectual, again causing much controversy in her native Colombia.[3]

Early life[edit]

Córdoba was born in Medellín, Antioquia of an Afro-Colombian father and a white mother. Her parents are Zabulón Córdoba (brother of political leader of the Department of Chocó Diego Luis Córdoba) and Lía Ruiz. She studied at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Medellín, graduating as a lawyer. She specialized in Labour Law at the same university, and in Public Opinion and Political Marketing at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, in Bogotá.

Early political career[edit]

Córdoba began her political career in Medellín working as a community leader in many neighborhoods along with political leader William Jaramillo Gómez. Between 1984 and 1986 Córdoba was appointed to her first public office job, working as a municipal sub-controller. In 1986, Córdoba was appointed as private secretary for the Mayor of Medellín.

In 1988 Córdoba was elected Councilwoman of Medellín, where she remained until 1990, when she postulated her name as candidate for the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia but did not secure enough votes to be elected. A few months after the congressional elections, Córdoba ran for Deputy to the Antioquia Assembly, this time successfully getting elected.

Representative to the Chamber 1992–1994[edit]

After the Constituent Assembly of Colombia adopted the new Constitution of 1991, Córdoba ran for congress once again for the Chamber of Representatives for the period 1992–1994. In 1994 her political mentor William Jaramillo announced that he was not going to seek a reelection and Córdoba assumed his role. She was elected to the Senate for the 1994–1998 period receiving most of her votes from the Departments of Antioquia and Chocó.

Due to her public profile Córdoba became one of the most notorious figures of the Latin American feminist movement in Colombia. She became part of a popular inter-parliamentary group that promotes government policies on sexuality. In 1995, Córdoba participated in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China.

Career in the Senate[edit]

Through congress Córdoba became nationally known for taking controversial positions, such as the reactivation of the extradition law in 1997 and other positions that were seen as radical and belligerent. In 1998 Córdoba was nonetheless reelected as senator. She promoted debates focused on minorities and communitarian mothers groups, as well as the resolution of the Colombian armed conflict through peaceful negotiations.

During the investigation that then president of Colombia Ernesto Samper underwent for allegedly accepting money in his presidential campaign from the Cali drug trafficking cartel, Córdoba became an outspoken defender of the president during the scandal that was later dubbed Proceso 8000.

Kidnapping

In 1999 Carlos Castaño, leader of the paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), kidnapped Senator Córdoba. After several weeks she was freed and exiled with her family in Canada. After one year and 2 months in exile and reports by Colombian authorities that security had improved, Córdoba returned to Colombia, leaving her family behind to resume her political duties. She has been the victim of two assassination attempts.

Death threats and political ban through coercion

In the elections of 2002, the regions where Córdoba had traditionally received strong voting results like Medellín, Chocó were seen as being under control by an AUC paramilitary group. Córdoba was elected once again for congress this time obtaining strong voting results in the capital, Bogotá.

Corruption debates and loss of seat in Congress

In 2003, Córdoba was involved in a series of debates regarding corruption by the Minister of the Interior and Justice, Fernando Londoño Hoyos. After the debates in May of that year, with her image and profile improved, she was elected President of the National Liberal Directorate (head of the Colombia liberal party).

In 2005, the Council of State of Colombia modified the electoral results of 2002 after proving there had been electoral fraud in Valle del Cauca and Atlántico. The new results left Córdoba out of congress. She then promoted the leftist radical wing of the Colombian Liberal party in order to prevent it from moving towards the political current of President Álvaro Uribe.

Citizens power 21st century political movement

For this reason she founded the Poder Ciudadano Siglo XXI (es) political movement as an internal dissidence of the Liberal party. In the legislative elections of 2006 Córdoba's political movement did not get a high voting turnout; however, she was elected once again to the senate.

Piedad Córdoba intervening in the 3rd National Liberal Congress, Medellín (2007)

In 2006 Córdoba became part of the Seventh Commission of Congress, which is in charge of debating labor topics. She had previously worked on the Third Commission which deals with Financial affairs, the Fifth Commission which deals with Mining and Energy and the Second Commission which debated topics related to Foreign Affairs. Córdoba was also president of the Senate's Human Rights Commission and the Peace Commission. As congresswoman she has supported projects that focused mainly on "communitary mothers", women head of households, Afro-Colombian communities, LGBT groups, groups against family violence and corruption.

Controversy in Mexico[edit]

On March 11, 2007, Córdoba attended a symposium in Mexico City called Los Partidos Políticos y una Nueva Ciudad (Political parties and a new city) which was supported by guerrilla groups from Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), both considered narco-terrorist organizations by the US government and the European Union and the Republic of Colombia. Córdoba generated controversy after declaring that "the progressive governments of Latin America should break their diplomatic relations with Colombia" and also that Álvaro Uribe was a "paramilitary".[4]

The head of the Liberal Party, César Gaviria, rejected Córdoba's opinions.[5] Córdoba was later judicially denounced for treason after making these declarations, a charge which is currently being investigated by Colombia's Supreme Court. The outrage was surprising, since the warm relations between Uribe's administration and the right-wing paramilitaries—also recognized as 'narco-terrorists' by the US and the EU—was a matter of public record: the paramilitaries had endorsed Uribe in the 2002 presidential election, describing him as the 'man closest to our philosophy', and were rewarded with the 'Justice and Peace Law', which gave them an amnesty in return for light sentences.[6] It was described by a former US ambassador to Bogotá as 'a law that couldn't be better designed to give the criminals a way out'.[6] Uribe's second term in office was marked by the 'para-politics' scandal, which largely vindicated Cordoba's criticisms of his administration.

Humanitarian exchange negotiator[edit]

Main article: Humanitarian exchange

On August 16, 2007, President Uribe in a surprising move appointed Córdoba as mediator in the humanitarian exchange in an effort to negotiate the freedom of some 50 (number at the time) hostages held by FARC and the possible release of some 500 guerrillas imprisoned by the government.[7] Córdoba then asked the President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez to mediate also, with the support of President Uribe.

Córdoba met with alias Raul Reyes, spokesman and leader of the FARC, to coordinate a meeting with president Chávez in Venezuela.[8] In Venezuela, Chávez and Córdoba met with Rodrigo Granda and Ivan Marquez among other members of the guerrilla as part of the negotiations. Photos of Córdoba and the guerrillas surfaced in an online website called Agencia Bolivariana de Prensa (ABP) which showed Córdoba in an amicable and cordial relationship with the FARC, receiving flowers, kisses and hugs. This generated controversy among the government, the Colombian public and other critics.,[9] to which she responded that the photos "were taken out of context".

On November 22, President Uribe ended the mediation after Chávez broke with diplomatic protocol by placing a series of calls directly to the high command of the Colombian military. Uribe had conditioned Chávez against any attempt to talk to the Colombian military high command without going through appropriate diplomatic channels. Chávez initially accepted the decision but afterwards reacted by pulling his ambassador from Bogotá, and he decided to cease diplomatic relations between the two countries and even announced his intent to sharply reduce bilateral commerce.[10]

On December 20, 2007, Córdoba accused an unspecified "top Colombian government official", of orchestrating an assassination attempt towards her on Venezuelan soil. This accusation sparked a confrontation with Juan Manuel Santos, the Minister of Defense, who had previously been the subject of other allegations made by Córdoba. So far no proof or testimony about the alleged conspiracy is known.[11]

Following the end of her official role as a mediator, Córdoba accused President Álvaro Uribe, the Minister of Defense and the Colombian Armed Forces of engaging in military operations or otherwise obstructing announced hostage releases, in spite of subsequent releases being carried out regardless.

Alleged "farcpolitics"[edit]

International guarantors of the Operation Emmanuel, from right to left: Senator Piedad Córdoba, former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Argentine Chancellor Jorge Taiana, and Venezuela Vice President Ramón Carrizales.

On April 24, 2008 the Colombian government released the "FARC files", said to be found on the computers found in the Ecuadorian camp of the former FARC commander Raúl Reyes. According to the information in the files, Córdoba would reportedly be implicated due to having friendly ties with the guerrillas. Under the codename of "'Teodora de Bolivar'", allegedly in reference to the Senator, she would be one of twelve people mentioned as part of a potential transitional government set up by the FARC in the event that they seized power in Colombia. The files are said to indicate Córdoba would have received money from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to fund social projects in the department. The Colombian Supreme Court asked for the seized files in order establish if there are valid reasons for a criminal investigation, but the Colombian government wanted the files to be validated by Interpol first. Interpol reported that the Colombian government had not manipulated the seized computer exhibits and validated their authenticity, but did not certify the accuracy of their contents.[12]

Córdoba has claimed the revelations are a "smokescreen" meant to divert attention from the Colombian parapolitics scandal affecting the Uribe administration but Interpol has neither confirmed nor denied the contents.[13]

Córdoba met at the Venezuelan presidential palace with FARC leaders last fall. From that meeting, the rebels reported that "Piedad says that Chávez has Uribe going crazy. He doesn't know what to do. That Nancy Pelosi helps and is ready to help in the swap [hostages in exchange for captured guerrillas]. That she has designated U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern for this."[citation needed]

2009 Nobel Peace Prize Nominated[edit]

The senator was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, by solicitation of former Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, causing much controversy and outrage amongst Colombians.

2010 Banned from public office[edit]

On September 27, 2010 Senator Córdoba's credentials were revoked by the Inspector General of Colombia, Alejandro Ordoñez, due to her alleged FARC ties. The Inspector General's investigation concluded that Córdoba was involved in promoting and supporting the guerrilla group. The same decision also forbid Córdoba from holding any public office for eighteen years.[14][15] Ordoñez, a conservative jurist, has a track record of using legal pretexts to ban progressive politicians from running for public office, and used similar methods against the mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro.[16] Ordoñez did not take any action against supporters of the former president Alvaro Uribe, whose administration was accused of systematically collaborating with right-wing paramilitaries.[17]

Córdoba rejected the Inspector General's decision and accused him of "criminalizing humanitarian work." She has announced that she will counter the decision and intends to prove her innocence. Córdoba also reiterated her wish to continue working towards peace and freedom.[18]

According to the Inspector General, the investigation originated from the electronic media seized during Operation Phoenix, the military operation where FARC spokesperson 'Raúl Reyes' was killed in Ecuador. The Inspector General's decision refers to electronic documents identifying Córdoba with the aliases of 'Teodora', 'Teodora Bolivar' and 'La Negra'. The parliamentary, according to the Inspector General's decision, also exceeded the duties specified in the authorization given to her by the Colombian government as an official mediator for the humanitarian exchange.[15] Based on these and other findings, the Inspector General reported he had established that the senator gave advice to FARC, such as sending voice recordings instead of video footage of the insurgent group's hostages as "proofs of life" in order to improve their strategy.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bhatia, Meera. (2009-10-05) Colombia’s Cordoba Contending for Nobel Peace Prize (Update1). Bloomberg. Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  2. ^ Cordoba apologizes to Santos. Colombiareports.com (2010-09-20). Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  3. ^ http://www.fp-es.org/los-10-intelectuales-iberoamericanos-mas-influyentes-2012
  4. ^ Élber Gutiérrez Roa, Declaraciones de Piedad Córdoba en México profundizan diferencias con el Partido Liberal, Revista Semana, March 13, 2007
  5. ^ (Spanish) Asdrúbal Guerra, Partido Liberal descalifica a Piedad Córdoba por declaraciones contra Gobierno, W Radio (Colombia), March 13, 2007
  6. ^ a b http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/01/international/americas/01colombia.html
  7. ^ Analitica: Colombia: Uribe nombra senadora cercana a Chávez como facilitadora ante FARC. Analitica.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  8. ^ Clarín: Las FARC se reúnen en la selva con la mediadora. Clarin.com (2007-09-17). Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  9. ^ senadora colombiana Piedad Córdoba y delegados de las FARC. Europapress.es. Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  10. ^ "Escaramuzas Vervales". Revista Semana. January 26, 2008. 
  11. ^ Santos dice que Piedad lo acusa en voz baja, ella se declara sorprendida. eltiempo.com. 21 December 2007
  12. ^ "Farc rebel link files 'genuine". BBC News. 16 May 2008. 
  13. ^ "Piedad Córdoba involved in ‘farcopolitics’, says government". Colombia Reports. April 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  14. ^ Piedad Córdoba, primera destituida por 'farcpolítica'. Elespectador.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  15. ^ a b c "Procurador General destituye e inhabilita a la Senadora Piedad Córdoba por promover y colaborar con las FARC.". Procuraduria General de la Nacion. September 28, 2010. 
  16. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/world/americas/colombias-president-reinstates-mayor-of-bogota.html
  17. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/21/world/americas/21colombia.html?_r=0
  18. ^ Cordoba: Dismissal will not stop fight for peace. Colombiareports.com (2010-09-28). Retrieved on 2011-12-03.